You'll find yourself yelling at your TV watching Netflix's new reality show, which tempts its contestants into making poor choices, says Kate Knibbs. "Filmed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Marriage or Mortgage is streaming into a changed world, and the recent social upheaval makes its premise all the more preposterous," she says. "'Should I spend my nest egg on a fun, lovely party or do the one single thing most likely to set me and my family up for financial success?' was never a hard question to answer. We all know the smart response. But it’s never been easier to see how absurd the question is. While weddings across the country have been postponed or canceled, the importance of having a peaceful place to live has been more abundantly clear. The folly of Marriage or Mortgage’s titular proposition is now so obvious, in fact, that I wonder whether it’s the sort of show that’s been fine-tuned for hate-watching. (It’s also hard not to entertain the notion that it might be anti-wedding propaganda in disguise.) By the time I finished Marriage or Mortgage, my throat was a little hoarse. Most of the couples choose to spend their savings on a wedding. Most then have to scale it back or modify due to the pandemic, making their decision to splash out on a single event all the more scream-worthy. Why did it provoke such a visceral reaction? Sure, part of it is the inherent false equivalence between weddings and housing, the conceit that choosing one of those two things is a reasonable dilemma. But lots of reality TV is built on slick fantasy. (Hello, The Bachelor.) Compared to the most flamboyantly exploitative offerings in the genre—remember Kid Nation?—Marriage or Mortgage doesn’t register as especially sinister. Instead, the show’s worst transgression might be how ill-suited it is to the present moment. In an era of financial precarity, it pulls an insidious trick. It insists what we want is the same as what we need."
TOPICS: Marriage or Mortgage, Netflix, Coronavirus, Reality TV